Beginning a creative project can be overwhelming, especially if you are not accustomed to working with a graphic designer. As a client, it may be tricky to communicate or address what your graphic designer needs to deliver your design. Learning how to speak or understand the language of the graphic designer as s/he starts envisioning your project is an important first step. In order to make the first meeting with your designer productive, leave you feeling confident, and ensure the designer understands your vision, consider these five questions.
What is the goal for this project?
Defining the goal of the project helps to hash out the scope of the design. Is the business promoting a new product or campaign? Are you trying to reach your target audience through a rebranding? Should you use an infographic to explain a complex subject? By having an understanding of the design scope, the graphic designer will be able to plan and create the best graphics to fit your goal and budget. With this information the designer plans how in-depth to go with conception, creation, and output. It is especially important to discuss the timeline in order to avoid missed deadlines down the road.
Who are your competitors? How are you different? What do you like or dislike about their content?
These questions are extremely important because they help a designer find a place to begin research for the project. Answers to these questions let the designer know what is and isn’t already working for the client’s competitors. Addressing these areas will help form a foundation upon which the designer can build. Studying the competition allows you to discover trends within the industry that should be avoided or considered. Trends are impactful, but once out of style, can detract from the content. Conducting a competitive analysis helps you separate your business from the competition. Using the same tone and style as a competitor down the street is not necessarily a good commercial move. Determining and highlighting your business’ differences will make for more powerful content. As you review what you like and dislike about the competition you are able to communicate the styles you like, and utilize elements of those styles in the design.
Who is the target audience?
This is one of the most important areas to explore and discuss with your graphic designer. The target audience will dictate the tone, style, language choices, and many other elements of the design. For example, targeting young male adults would allow for bolder colors, funky fonts, the use of slang, and witty remarks. An older female audience might prefer softer colors, legible text, and traditional verbiage. Audiences can be targeted over a wide variety of subjects, including age group, gender, location, occupation, interests, income, and more.
Where and how will this material be used?
This question will address a multitude of facets regarding the project. For example, a project intended for print will not be set up the same way as a project designed for the web. Projects for different promotional channels will each have distinctly different design parameters.
Printed materials are created using CMYK color codes as opposed to RGB color codes, which are utilized for web images. CMYK - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (Black) - is an additive color process that begins with white and adds hues via dots of color. RGB (Red, Green, Blue) is a subtractive process that simulates the way light would behave in darkness. The individual colors are turned “on” to varying degrees and influence the final color output.
For a crisply printed piece, your image resolution or dots per inch should be set to 300 dpi. The resolution for web does not need to be nearly as high as printed materials. 72 pixels per inch or PPI will serve well. The key for web design is to preserve file space. A smaller PPI value means a smaller file size, which yields faster loading times for your website.
Additionally, for web materials, it is important to consider which file format is appropriate. If there are any elements you would like to include with a transparency layer, you will want to use a PNG file format. PNG is a “lossless” file type. This means that no matter how many times it is edited and saved, the quality will not degrade. File types like JPG deteriorate over time because of their compression formulas, which causes “artifacts” like pixels or jagged edges to appear on an image. Certain PNG file formats also perform well for large, high-resolution imagery. For instance, PNG-32 files may save up to 32 bits of color information. However, these files can become large and cumbersome to load. If you wish to aim for fastest loading times, there are a multitude of other options that you can discuss with your designer. It is also important to understand that certain outlets, especially pertaining to social media, will restrict the file types and sizes that they allow.
Do you have a style and brand guide?
In order to visually define your business, having a brand is extremely important. Uniformity in style, voice, and imagery is key for keeping up a professional image as well as avoiding the alienation of customers who may be confused when your brand shifts. People feel very strongly about their choice of brands and expect their loyalty to be rewarded with a consistent approach to doing business. If you do not have a brand and style guide, what does your business collateral (business cards, flyers, brochures, website, etc.) look like? The colors used, especially those in the logo, should be exactly the same across all collateral. RGB and CMYK spaces must be calibrated for exactness. Logos should have the proper size ratio and be given the correct amount of space when combined with other design elements. The appropriate and branded fonts should be utilized. Any branded copy such as a mission statement should be addressed as well.
Graphic design is meant to stimulate communication. Therefore, it is important that the questions above are communicated clearly and in appropriate detail to the graphic designer. Understanding the basics and being prepared to answer the important questions will save time, money, and energy for all parties involved. Starting a new project will be less stressful if you identify and prepare answers to these questions before meeting with your graphic designer.
What other tips do you have for working with graphic designers?
CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).